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Would you rather have a thicker tablet, or a thinner, cheaper tablet that couldn’t run all your apps? That was the choice in 2012, but Microsoft didn’t make it clear.

It was actually quite the scandal back in 2012, when Microsoft tried to sell the first Microsoft Surface RT tablet with a stripped-down version of Windows — Windows RT — instead of the real thing. Microsoft lost nearly a billion dollars when the Surface RT didn’t sell, and nearly $8 billion more when it had to write off all its Nokia phones.But this year, Microsoft says it’s finally cracked the code. On December 7, the company announced it would bring the full Windows 10 operating system, including Win32 apps, to ARM-based Qualcomm processors. That means real Windows desktop apps could run on phones — and beyond.Is it too little too late? Here are five reasons why this single achievement could change the computing landscape — and three ways it could fail yet again.

The Surface Pro and Surface Book might be awesome Windows computers, but no one’s mistaking them for an Apple iPad — they’re comparatively thick, heavy and generally far more expensive. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPad still hasn’t quite gotten to the point where it can replace a computer for many people. (That’s probably why the Mac still exists.)Microsoft’s Windows 10 OS has the chops to be for both a PC and a tablet, but few companies have managed to produce a competitive tablet using Intel processors. (The Samsung TabPro S is an exception to the rule.)Qualcomm’s chips, with built-in wireless connectivity, could bring the battery life and always-on internet connection that Intel hasn’t up to now.HP’s Elite x3 turns into a Windows desktop when you dock it. It can even run Win32 desktop apps — if you pay for HP to host them on cloud servers.

Right now, Android and Apple are your only viable options for a smartphone, but that could change. Windows phones — ones that support all the traditional Windows apps, anyhow — might be attractive enough to pose a real alternative. What if your phone could turn into a full Windows desktop or laptop when you plug it into a dock?

It’s an idea that’s been tried before, but never with a Windows desktop that actually ran desktop apps on the phone itself. That’s now theoretically possible with Windows on ARM, and it’s something both PC makers and phone makers can now pursue.If enough people buy into the idea, the mobile app developers that once skipped Windows Phone might give it another chance, too.Windows is where the hottest virtual and augmented reality experiences live, but they’re not particularly portable. They’re all either tethered to Windows desktops or laptops, or have poor battery life (Microsoft HoloLens).To cut the cord and venture out into the real world with smaller, standalone headsets, we need lightweight, always-connected-to-the-internet processors that last more than a few hours on a charge. That’s what Qualcomm’s ARM chips do best, by baking the cellular radios right into the processor instead of requiring additional components.How often do you wish your laptop had a cellular connection? Terrible coffee shop Wi-Fi could be a thing of the past with an ARM-powered Windows device. Today, you don’t see a lot of cellular-powered laptops because it’s a huge design constraint: Manufacturers have to make room for a removable cellular module and a SIM card tray, and install software to control the whole thing.

But again, Qualcomm’s chips have cellular built right in, and Microsoft says Windows will natively support tiny embedded reprogrammable SIM cards (eSIM) so there’s no need to swap out SIMs.Of course, not every manufacturer will go to the trouble of adding cellular antennas, and you’ll still need a data plan, but you can probably expect cellular models to be way more affordable than the $150-$300 premium you might pay today. (Plus, prices might come down if Intel and Qualcomm are competing to be in your next PC.) With fast future 5G networks, there may come a time when cell connectivity is the norm for computers.Sure, your phone isn’t anywhere near as fast as a beefy gaming PC packed with Intel, AMD and Nvidia processors — but you might be surprised how far mobile processors have come. In one benchmark, the ARM chip inside Apple’s new iPhone 7 actually beats the Intel ones inside Apple’s MacBook Air. The eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the processor that Microsoft is targeting for this new Windows release, could be even more powerful.Putting benchmarks aside, Microsoft showed off a Windows 10 machine running Adobe Photoshop on a quad-core Snapdragon 820, and you can bet that tomorrow’s eight-core Snapdragon 835 will be a good bit faster than that.

Here’s the thing about Microsoft’s newfound app support: It uses an emulator, and emulators have a tendency to slow everything down. The emulator is a piece of software that lets your ARM-based Snapdragon chip pretend to be an Intel-like x86 processor, and every CPU cycle that maintains the disguise is one that’s not being used to actually run your app.Which means that even if the Snapdragon 835 is just as fast as a comparable Intel chip, things will probably run a bit slower. We can’t say how much slower, and Microsoft has built some impressive emulators in the past — the Xbox One can now play Xbox 360 games thanks to the company’s work. And a Microsoft representative tells CNET that Windows on ARM is relatively fast: "People will experience apps at a similar speed to what they experience on other, similarly priced PCs."Still, "there is always an overhead associated with emulation," Moor Insights and Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead tells us — and also notes that emulators sometimes have difficulty supporting external devices like printers and scanners.

Sure, Windows Phones could make meaningful competition for iPhone and Android — but who’s going to stick their necks out? Probably not Microsoft, whose phone ambitions got squashed when it had to part ways with Nokia. (We do still hear rumors about a Surface Phone, though.)Laptops and tablets are one thing, but a bunch of companies got burned trying to support the last big batch of Windows Phones (and Windows RT tablets), including a couple that have since called the phone business quits (Nokia and Dell). Are any OEMs brave enough to wholeheartedly support Microsoft against Apple and Google this time around?Microsoft is the proverbial boy who called wolf — year after year, the company promised you’d finally be able to get full Windows on a thin tablet or phone. Even if that’s about to become true, would you buy a Windows Phone or iPad-like device knowing how previous customers were left out in the cold?

Microsoft’s biggest fans who bought into Windows Phone found themselves unable to upgrade to newer versions of the operating system, and Microsoft did a pretty crappy job explaining to customers that Windows RT tablets wouldn’t run their desktop apps. If Microsoft comes out and says, "No, this time we really mean it, you can actually have a functional Windows desktop on a tiny device," will customers believe it?Whether traveling for work or pleasure, the iPad is a perfect travel companion. It’s lighter and runs longer than a laptop and springs to life instantly. Plus, its screen is large enough to get work done or enjoy TV shows or movies while in transit.If you have a Wi-Fi-only iPad (or are traveling abroad with a cellular iPad and don’t want to return to find hefty international data roaming charges tacked onto your next bill), here are five tips for making the most of your travels with an iPad.

Don’t run the risk of getting stuck on a Wi-Fi-less plane. For such flights and long car trips, you are going to want to download any shows or movies you want to watch before you leave.At long last, you can now download Netflix shows and movies. Amazon Video lets Prime members download select titles to Fire phones and tablets along with Android and iOS devices, and YouTube lets YouTube Red subscribers download videos for offline viewing. You can also purchase and download movies and shows from iTunes to view offline.Video files can be large and can take a while to download, so be sure you leave yourself enough time to complete the download; this is something to do the night before you leave and not something to do as you are walking out the door.Because video files can be large, you may also need to remove some apps or delete or offload some photos and videos to make room for your in-flight entertainment.The iPad boasts good battery life but constantly searching for a Wi-Fi signal can needlessly drain battery resources. Swipe up from the bottom edge and turn off Wi-Fi from the Control Center before you toss your iPad in your backpack or purse and head out on the town.

It won’t help you locate your iPad if it’s offline, but it’s still a good idea to turn on Find My iPad because it lets you enable Lost Mode to lock your missing tablet. Lost Mode will be turned on the next time your iPad is online. It remotely locks your iPad and displays a message on the lock screen with your phone number. It also disables Apple Pay.Also, in order to protect a missing iPad before Lost Mode can be turned on, give it a passcode while you are traveling. Go to Settings > Passcode and enter a passcode.Protect your iPad from the bumps and bruises of being on the road by outfitting it with a tough case. That means leaving Apple’s Smart Cover at home and getting a case that protects both the front and back of your iPad.If you plan to get some work done on your iPad during your travels, get a Bluetooth keyboard so you aren’t forced to type for long stretches on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. Or combine the previous two tips and get a keyboard case for your iPad.Lastly, a tip for parents traveling with two kids and one iPad: get a headphone splitter and thank me later.

Sometimes it seems like Apple’s products never go on sale. There’s usually a good handful of deals every year around Black Friday, however, especially if you’re shopping for an iPad or Apple Watch.The best deals this year seem to involve the iPad Mini 2, iPad Air 2, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple Watch Series 1, iPhone 7 and a handful of MacBooks. These are the Black Friday specials that Best Buy, Walmart and Target are advertising so far.Also, keep in mind that Apple is back for Black Friday this year with free gift cards when spend set amounts.Target, Walmart and Best Buy are all offering gift cards with the purchase of an iPhone 7, 7 Plus or even older iPhones on a number of carriers, but the deals vary subtly. CNET’s Lynn La broke down the deals in detail.Best Buy: iPhone 7 deal. If you buy an iPhone 7 (not a 7 Plus) on an AT&T Next, Verizon Device or Sprint 24-month installment plan, Best Buy will give you a store gift card. The 256GB model comes with a $250 store gift card, but this is an in-store deal only. If you buy a 32GB or 128GB iPhone 7 (online or in-store), you’ll still receive a gift card — just not for $250. For more information, check out Best Buy’s Black Friday ad.

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